more engaging and fun. Further, 50
new teachers have joined HIFIVES to
begin learning the game design process
through a cascading leadership model
where the original 13 teachers mentor
the next 50. Many of those teachers and
students will come from North Carolina’s Lee County, a rural, impoverished,
under-performing area according to the
No Child Left Behind Act.
Going one step further, the teachers can use the same technology to
have their students develop games.
Our goal is to put these games into the
hands of the students so that instead
of assigning, for example, a research
paper, a teacher will have students
create games to teach other students.
Sometimes the best way to learn content is to teach it. By creating games,
students are immersed in an environment they are accustomed to, and this
establishes a potentially new form of
Teacher-Designed Game Example
One teacher designed a game titled
Modeling in Chemistry: The Development of Atomic Theory. This interactive
quiz format allows a student to navigate the gaming environment and prevent the evil “Dr. Atomic” from forever
scrambling time and destroying the
underlying atomic structure of everything in the world. Successful navigation of the game requires knowledge
of key figures in the historical develop-
ment of atomic t heory
(Democritus, Dalton, Thomson,
Contributions of the
individuals as well as
of the sequence
of atomic theory
the “time travel” aspect of the game.
Successful navigation of the game also
requires the application of fundamental concepts serving as the underlying
foundation of current atomic theory
(atomic number, mass number, atomic
mass, chemical symbols, isotopes).
Facility with the language of atomic
theory—essential in the study of the
physical sciences—is the key to defeating evil Dr. Atomic in his quest to
destroy the fundamental structure and
stability of matter.
In the Mystery of the Dying Coral,
student scientists investigate the mysterious deaths of corals around the
world. Using interactive gaming the
scientists gather and analyze the evidence to find the culprit in this global
phenomenon. The scientists use data
collected from organisms within the
ocean environment as well as interactive Web sites and authoritative databases. Will the scientists be able to
solve the mystery or will the world’s
coral reefs go the way of the dodo bird?
Shrunk to the size of mere insects,
a group of entomologists find themselves lost in a maze-like desert ravine
in the ecological game The Great
Entomologist Escape. With the new-found ability to communicate to the
now monstrously sized insects, can
the team unlock the clues necessary
to maneuver through the trap of this
food web adventure? Navigate through
multiple stages of a food chain using
multi-player online capabilities. Who
will be first to escape the ravine?
Partnering with SAS, a developer
of business intelligence and analytical software and services, I am adding a unique feature to my games—a
behind-the-scenes exploratory study
to evaluate how students learn in
these gaming environments. Through
another NSF-funded grant project,
SAS is providing their data mining
software (Enterprise Miner) for assessing students who play the games.
Businesses use the software to forecast
sales and make business decisions.
The software enables Amazon to
suggest books to purchase based on
customer preferences. Educators tap
into the same powerful technology
to make more effective and efficient
teaching and learning practices.
The education games generate an
extensive amount of data from chat
text logs, recorded events in-game,
and pop-up boxes in which students
explain their actions. Reading through
all the “raw” data is laborious and
time consuming. The SAS technology automatically analyzes the data
quickly to help teachers assess student
performance and adjust the next day’s
lesson plan to address students’ needs.
The analysis also enables teachers to
improve the design of the games based
on the real-world feedback from students and what they are actually doing
in the virtual game environment. This
analytical software may be the next
generation of assessment for both educational and commercial video games.
Gaming Transforms Education
Today’s video games have rich storylines involving seeking out and using
information, and the HIFIVES game
platform allows teachers to create
games that tell a story, keeping children
interested in the classroom and teaching them valuable career and life skills.
This article is based on work supported by the
National Science Foundation under HIFIVES:
Highly Interactive Fun Internet Virtual Environments in Science Grant No. 0525115. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations
expressed in this article are those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
National Science Foundation. Finally, I would
like to acknowledge my partnership with Chris
Dede from Harvard University Graduate School
of Education. He is the PI on the SAS project.
Len Annetta, PhD, is an assistant professor of science
education at North Carolina
State University and the lead
principal investigator of the
HIFIVES program in partnership with the Friday Institute